Xi’an, Day 2: School Supplies, and Shopping Malls, and Temples! Oh my! by Sarah Angelle



Saturday (6/28/2014):

On Saturday, my host sister still had to go to school, but I needed school supplies. Luckily, my parents didn’t work on Saturday so they were able to take me.

School Supplies List:

-新化词典 dictionary

-一本子 a notebook


My first ride in a Chinese car wasn’t that different from riding in an American car- either way, I’m still terrified. However, I felt safer in the car with my host parents than I do in America. I discovered why this was so later.

Because I only needed book-like things, we landed ourselves in a book store crammed beside about ten other stores on that street, which is just like every other street I’ve seen in Xi’an. I’m always surprised to find that the inside looks much, 怎么说, less sketchy on the outside. My host parents let me look around for awhile, so I ended up showing my 阿姨 two books I could read- one about a coffeehouse and one about a teenager falling in love. I’m not sure if it was because I didn’t understand the title fully or because of another reason, but she laughed and told me to buy the second book. She even bought one for my host sister! Besides the book 我在云爱上你,I bought my dictionary, my notebook, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in Chinese!!! 😀 I am so 兴奋!


After that, we drove to a shopping mall about 18 stories high to window shop. It was really interesting because while most of the floors were just boutiques and random shops (like Chinese versions of Forever 21), the bottom floor was filled with small outlets and trolleys filled with stuffed animals, jewelry, clothes, etc. that you could bargain for! There’s nothing like it in America, except maybe for a really nice garage sale. I told my host mother I thought one of the hair clips looked beautiful, and while I wasn’t looking she bought both of us one! I was so 不好意思 but so 感谢. My host parents really are such sweethearts.


The final excursion was to a Buddhist temple, although I didn’t know that when we first arrived. We walked past the shopping mall and through the gates of a Chinese-特色的 building and it genuinely looked like my parents were buying a box of fireworks. I thought, “okay, the 4th of July is in a week, maybe they want to celebrate that with me or something?” But when we went through another gate, I saw the temples.

The Buddhist temple in Xi’an, although peaceful and full of people, felt desolate and somber. My 阿姨 gave me three incense to burn (as per the three-stick policy that Chinese people can only burn three incense per person per temple per day, because the incense smoke heavily contributed to air pollution) and we proceeded to burn three incense at each temple. Inside two of the temples showed “heaven” and “hell”, and the people in heaven were pushing back the demons in hell with spears or looking down on them from the clouds as the 坏人 as my 阿姨 called them either were burned, crushed, hung, cut up, put into soups, drowned, or some other horrible action done by demons with wild eyes, sharp teeth, blue skin, claws and horns. She told me that these temples made her afraid.

Me, too, 阿姨.

We passed two turtle ponds in the area before reaching the last temple, and I thought the turtles looked very cute, some big, some small. But all were snapping turtles, and you couldn’t get too close. Furthermore, the water in each pond was so polluted you couldn’t see past a fingernail’s width deep, and therefore some of the baby turtles lay dead floating at the top of the pond. It was very grieving to see.

Two other parts that I really enjoyed about the temples were the monks and the student temple. I had never seen an actual monk before, and here there were so many dawned in plain clothes, umbrellas, and bald heads! I wanted to speak with one, but didn’t know if it was appropriate, so I just moved on. The student temple is not just for students; in fact, parents mainly go to the student temple to pray that their son/daughter does well in school or on a test. Inside of the temple are tall golden statues sporting different poses, and cushions are laid before them so you can bow to them and pray. Outside of the temple is an awning with hundreds of red strips of cloth with wishes on them. My 阿姨read me a few. Most of them were parents hoping that their son/daughter is successful in their studies.

Overall, I’ve said this many times, but I really like seeing the contrast between ancient China and modern China. Right outside of the Buddhist temple, people were constructing another high-rise apartment building, and traffic swam all around. There are people practicing Tai Chi and listening to traditional Chinese music in the middle of a park filled with neon lights. It’s a very interesting contrast that you don’t get to see in America, considering it is such a new country.


Finally, for dinner we went out to a restaurant to eat some 地道的中国food. While we were there, there was a woman playing a Chinese instrument that I found to sound very beautiful, and I hope the video works so you all can listen as well!

Well, until next time! 拜拜!

P.S.- I’m sorry if it’s too confusing that I have Chinese in my writing (unlike in China, you all can use *cough cough Google translate). After being here for only 5 days, I already am beginning to feel like I can only phrase certain things in Chinese. It’s faster to think about it than to translate it into English. It’s so cool, but also a really strange feeling!



Here we go! by Sarah


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That’s right, everyone! We are back to summertime, and you know what that means…stories from our scholars. Our first post of the season is from Sarah. Sarah is a recent graduate of the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science, and will be officially a WKU student this Fall. Sarah has spent the past year and a half in Flagship courses as a high school student, and now she will be taking classes as a Flagship student. Sarah has received a National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) award to study in China this summer, all expenses paid! Before leaving, Sarah wrote the following. We look forward to hearing from her and everyone else throughout the summer. Safe travels!

Hello Everyone!


Because every story needs an introduction, and because I’m not yet half-way around the world, I thought it’d be fitting as my first post to say a bit about myself.

因为每故事需要用一个介绍 (也是因为我还在美国), 所以我认为写一个介绍可能是合适的。

First of all, for those who don’t know my name is Sarah. This summer I will be 18 years old, and this will be my second time going to China! Last year I went to Beijing and the Shandong province for two weeks. This summer I will be traveling to Xi’an for six weeks. I am now officially a student at Western Kentucky University. I have taken two years of Chinese now thanks to the Chinese Flagship program at WKU. It has been amazing, and everyone should check it out:


首先,我的名字是夕颜。这个夏天我会是十八岁了。这个夏天我也会回去中国旅行。这会是我的第二次旅行中国!^-^ 去年,我去北京和山东了两个星期。这个夏天我会旅行到西安了六个星期。我现在正式是学生在西肯塔基大学。我已经学习中文两年。

I am going to Xi’an through a scholarship called NSLI-Y. Although I still do not have too much information about my trip, as soon as I know you will, too! Also, I’m not sure how many people will read this (as I’m probably pretty blabby), but I know for sure that I will have at least one follower who keeps me motivated to keep writing. Hi mom!!! 🙂


由于一个奖学金叫NSLI-Y,我可以去西安为学习。虽然我还没有很多消息关于我的旅行,可是当我听说消息我一定会告诉你们!同时,我不知道谁会读这篇文章,可是我知道一个人会来看看 (你好,妈妈!)她总是启发我写。

So far, the only thing I really know about my trip is that I am staying with a host family- two parents and a 15-year-old sister named Xingyu!- and that I will be going to Chinese class from 8:00- 15:00 every weekday. Woo woo! We will also be touring some famous sites (such as museums and the Terracotta warriors) as well as some community service, which I’m looking forward to. There. Now you know as much as me!

只东西我真知道关于这个旅行是我会有一个主人家-父母和一个十五岁的妹妹叫醒予!-和我每天有一个很长的中文课(八点早上到三点下午  >.<)。我们会参观流行的名胜古迹比如说博物馆和兵马俑。也是,我们会做社区服务! 我很高兴我有这个机会。现在你知道我的将来计划。

The reason why I am doing this blog is not only to keep my friends and family updated, but also so I don’t forget all of my memories. I remember some things from last year in China, but a lot less than I care to admit. I hope that this blog will help me remember the little moments as well as the major ones. 🙂


I’m sort of trying in this introduction to simulateously answer all of the repetitive questions I’m asked, so… what am I looking forward to the most? 1.) my host family and 2.) food. I have always wanted to be a part of Chinese culture, and now I feel like I truly get the chance to. It’s not everyday you get a new family! Also, for anyone who has not tried authentic Chinese cuisine- I have feels for you. I wish I could smuggle you some back, but it would be cold, old, and illegal..



That’s about all I have so far! Here are a few side notes about this blog (in English):

1.) This is my first blog, so no makin’ fun of me.

2.) For those of you who can read my Chinese, I am terribly sorry if I butcher the grammar. It will improve as time goes on. 我很对不起我的语法非常糟糕。

3.) I will be translating everything I say in English and Chinese to practice my writing skills. If you post a question, I will respond in English and Chinese.

4.) COMING SOON: picture-taking in China. 🙂

5.) Aside from my actual experiences, I will also be posting things about Chinese language and media.

Have a fantastic day, and thanks for reading! 拜拜!



Beauty, by Sidney Ehrenborg


Sidney is an incoming Freshman who will be joining the Chinese Flagship Program at WKU this month. She has just completed her first trip to China on a U.S. Department of State National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) Scholarship.

Beauty has no bounds, no region of life in which it cannot thrive even if largely and unfortunately overlooked.  From the simple, subtle beauty of the mountains to the ornate, man-made beauty of the Imperial Palace, beauty of all types and sorts exists everywhere.   Beauty is what has shaped my experiences in China and what has drawn me to the language and the people.  I search for beauty in everything, but most of the time, beauty ends up finding me.

My project embraces two mediums of beauty: the written word and the spoken word. By reading the poem Xiang Si by Wang Wei, I have the opportunity to learn and taste the beauty of the Chinese written word. Poetry is a universal beauty crossing cultures, ethnicities, and religions. It is this beauty that has continually reminded me that people are people, and all people are beautiful, in a unique yet similar way. We all have ideas and thoughts that tumble onto the pages of novels, poetry, biographies, and the like. These thoughts and ideas are then inevitably shared, disregarding different distances, languages, and times preserved in scribbled words. The idea and thoughts of the previous ages have taught those of us in this age; and the ideas and thoughts of this age will teach the next generation. The beauty of each generation is pressed, like a delicate flower, onto the pages of the written word. My time in China has only exemplified this idea: from the intricacies of the roofs of the Imperial Palace buildings to the names, carved in stone, of those who passed the Confucius.

The spoken word is just as important, if not more, than the written word. Spoken word and song predates writing, and many of the earliest texts discovered were oral traditions for years before they were penned.  Ages ago, spoken word was all that was used to pass the thoughts and ideas that make up the beauty of each generation of people. Now we are blessed with the written word, but it is the spoken word that originally embraced the emotions. The spoken word can cause you to love, to hate, to follow, to lead. The spoken word is a powerful tool. In the beginning of this trip, I noticed what a tonal language Mandarin is. It seemed to me that, while the tones were (and still are) difficult to learn, they are beautiful to listen to. As I moved further into my stay here, I had the opportunity to listen to Chinese music. It is beautiful. The voices are incredible, and I love the language. One song that I heard stuck out to me. The name is 童话, or in English, Fairytale. The song, which has an equally moving music video to it, is about a boy wanting to be his girlfriends Fairytale. In the end, the girl dies, and he remembers all of the things they did together. Although sad, I think this song is absolutely, breathtakingly, beautiful. Not because of his voice (which is very good) or the music notes, but because of the beauty of his heart.  The meaning if this song is like many other songs across the world, yet unique in it’s own story. The beauty of the heart is a multicultural substance, the story, individualistic.

Although beauty is cross-cultural, China has it’s own very distinct beauty. From the written word of a poem about red berries and love to a song about love and loss, China and this trip has left a lasting impression on me, a stamp on my heart. Although this trip is coming to a close, and a new chapter of my life is starting, I know that I will come back to China. This trip, this glance into the deep, beautiful Chinese culture has strengthened my desire to continue my study of Chinese.

On being an “old foreigner,” by Tyler Prochazka

Tyler is on his first trip to China, participating in the Princeton in Beijing summer program, and reflects on the more awkward aspects of being a foreigner.

A striking characteristic of China (and imminently noticeable when visiting) is that the vast majority of the population is made up of the Han ethnicity. This makes international travelers and students somewhat of an oddity to many Chinese people. Even in cities, where seeing foreigners is not rare, I still have encountered a lot of curiosity as I have wandered the streets of Beijing. A few stories come to mind.

While eating dinner with a classmate, I noticed a middle-aged Chinese man staring at our table. By the time we had nearly finished eating, I saw he had taken out his phone and was taking pictures of me. I asked him “uhhh…Ni hao?” He started asking me where I was from and what I was doing here (something also very common). He then forced his way to my table, sat down and showed me the pictures he took of me. He had my friend take a picture of us together so he could “give to his 10 year old daughter.” I replied that I was famous and named “Justin Bieber.” I’m still not sure what was going on there.

I’ve also been bombarded with requests for money. As a foreigner, it is automatically assumed that I am full of wealth and riches. The most interesting request was from a mother and daughter who asked if I could speak Chinese. When I told the mother yes, she told me a story of how she lost her purse and her child was starving, or as she put it “hungry to death.” Her daughter looked downtrodden and sad while her mother spoke. The problem was her story wasn’t very convincing since they both appeared pretty wealthy, even by American standards (which could be a consequence of her fooling enough foreigners). I told her I only had three RMB and a 100 RMB bill. She said she would settle with 100 RMB (approximately $20 US dollars). I gave her three RMB. I’ve lost much of my sympathy and gullibility since unintentionally buying a fake iPhone, and subsequently having that same phone stolen. But that’s another story.

Coincidentally, our class just wrapped up a lesson on Chinese people’s views of foreigners. They have plenty of derogatory terms for us, including the foreign devil. Some of that sentiment still exists in China, although my encounters have been with Chinese people who are antagonistic toward the American government, rather than the American people. The most glaring instance was a shopkeeper who ranted to me about America interfering in China’s affairs and how America can’t match the greatness of China. I told her I think both countries have their beauty.

For the most part though, nowadays Chinese people settled on calling us “lao wai,” which literally translated means old foreigner. I’ll take that over foreign devil.

My Summer at the Flagship Chinese Institute at IU-Bloomington, by Laurel Clutts

Laurel has just completed an intensive Chinese summer immersion program located at Indiana University. The curriculum of the Flagship Chinese Institute is roughly equivalent to a year’s worth of Chinese packed into 8 weeks, and students must maintain a language pledge to use only Chinese at all times. 

Laurel with her class. Can you spot her? Hint: She is the only one with curly hair!

Laurel with her class. Can you spot her? Hint: She is the only one with curly hair!

To summarize my experience at FCI in a short, sweet way, I want to start by saying that I’m more than glad I participated, not only because of the improvement of my Chinese skills, but because of the wonderful friends I’ve made. The program truly is an experience for those who are willing to meet new people and give their best effort and, although it isn’t easy, I never once felt that I couldn’t meet the challenges put before me.

I can also say that the FCI I imagined and the FCI I participated in were two different things; it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I imagined it would be and I felt right at home in the classroom. Despite the fact that there were a few situational difficulties during our time at the program, I think the staff did a great job of making the experience as enjoyable as possible, and the students who didn’t enjoy themselves were those who remained unwilling to think positively during our time together. I have full confidence that next year’s program will be even better, and I strongly recommend that anyone with a desire to learn participates for the sake of bettering their Chinese. If you’re anything like I am, you’ll be crying when you leave and spend the next few weeks trying to keep yourself from using inside jokes in Chinese around family members who can’t understand you.

A summer in Suzhou, by Cody Hutchins


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Cody is studying in Suzhou, China this summer on a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship.

黄山 1 - CodyAs the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) summer program in Suzhou is coming to a close I’m having a hard time summarizing all the experiences that we have had. We started our two month journey at the beginning of June and since then we have surely come a long way. While I’ve definitely been challenged to focus on Chinese more than ever before, I’ve also had a lot of fun exploring the different cities and further learning about China’s unique culture.

A few aspects are particularly notable about the program. The first being the dedication of the students and professors to the language pledge and how it has immensely improved all of the students’ Chinese proficiency. Although all of my classmates are American it has been more than rare to hear English spoken in our program. As a result of speaking Chinese 24/7, I’ve begun to understand the language in a new light and sometimes I even dream in Chinese-which still freaks me out every time! It’s quite exciting!

Along with the language immersion I have been able to travel to a few new places in China that have completely blown me away. Last weekend I took an overnight train with a few friends to the beautiful mountains of Huang Shan and spent two days there hiking. Saturday night we slept in a hostel on top of the mountain and woke up at 4:30 a.m. to catch one of the most gorgeous sunrises I have ever seen in my life. Some of our tutors journeyed alongside us giving us ample opportunities to further practice our Chinese, and when the weekend was over it was safe to say that everyone had a great time.

Altogether the CLS summer program has been very interesting and a great experience that I will surely never forget. While we have definitely had our ups and downs dealing with the high intensity of the classes, I have no doubt that in the past two months I have rapidly improved my Chinese faster than ever before. I feel very fortunate that God’s given me this awesome opportunity, and I look forward to hearing about more WKU Flagship students participating in the CLS program in the future.

亲爱的青岛: Bonjour, Mon Amour! by Dare Norman



You can also follow Dare’s personal blog at http://darenorman.blogspot.com/

Creink. Hiss – Clackclack thunk. “Shàng chē! Shàng chē!” Kkrrrum, Vroom thunk k k, hiss. Bunk bunk. MEEEP.This is the song of the Chinese public transportation system. Usually, this is the soundtrack of my daily thirty-minute trip to and from Ocean University of China in the Fushan district of Qingdao.

One day, though, it wasn’t.

After an hour of poring through A Chinese Discourse on Sino-American Relation with my tutor, I was sinking. My brain was sweating and making heavy puddles on my spirits – and it was raining outside. Great. I thought. A nice, slippery, wet, muddy, humid, smelly, crowded bus ride home is just what I need.

     Grouchy, I paid my 2¥ and pushed to the back of the bus, sliding my pack around front for safe-keeping. Fog covered the windows and blurred my view of the street, but I could tell from the chorus of car horns: we were in slow-moving traffic.

Sigh. I took out my iPod and pressed play.

*Cheery accordion, smooth clarinet and lazy guitar waltzed in my ears and sang melodies like warm Nutella on French toast, stripes of black and white and red, gentle sunshine on the Seine and the slight smell of oil paint.

Wait, no, it didn’t sing of those things. Where was I? Bumping noisily down the packed streets of Qingdao, in the fog, by the sea. Outside, women in wide-brimmed hats and fancy heels tapping down the sidewalk, gently splashing mud. A flock of brightly-colored umbrellas hovering around each bus stop. Look! There’s that shop with taro- and melon-flavored ice cream! Underneath a tattered, dripping tent, older gentleman huddled intensely around a game Mahjong. Salesmen with their carts of peaches, others selling kites or clam shells or bird-whistles or patterned socks. People living in Qingdao, in all of their different styles and circumstances – beautifully.

Elbow-to-elbow between two damp strangers and an umbrella dripping at my feet, I suddenly grinned. We were picturesque.

*”Under Paris Skies,” by The Paris Musette. Album: The Music of France.

如在画图中 (Like in Paintings), by Jessica Brumley


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Jessica is currently studying in Suzhou, China on a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship.


Suzhou is known for its beauty. Pale stone bridges intersect over murky canals, where fishermen guide rickety wooden boats against a lazy tide. If the light is just right, the river shines at some point just above the horizon, and the view is so clear, it takes a second glance to make sure the scene is real. Tranquility is a Suzhou specialty, served hot and humid every morning on my walk to class.

But there is something out of place. Something in this picture is not the same as everything else. I will give you three guesses…and the first two don’t count.

老外。The Chinese love to point out foreigners on the streets. No matter where I go, I get stares and the occasional eager student wanting to practice their English. But, at the end of the sixth week of my Critical Language Scholarship program, I was hoping I would start to blend in.

I suppose it is a little difficult to hide my blonde hair and blue eyes, no matter how 地道 my Chinese may become. Sometimes I forget that I look that much different from everyone else, until I see a picture of a foreigner, normally in a clothing store window, and my mind automatically thinks: “外国人”. The students in my program have made a game of pointing out other foreigners on the streets, and even speaking Chinese to them, knowing that they probably won’t understand. I feel like this is a bit like traveler’s hazing, and I normally don’t take part, but I find myself trying to make a slight distinction between myself, my group, and the other foreigners here in China.

I live, eat and breathe Chinese here is Suzhou. Dreaming in Chinese is not an uncommon occurrence (although I must say it is not nearly as entertaining as it sounds).  But, the language alone does not make me Chinese, does not make me a 本地人。There is a whole culture, a whole way of living that an eight week program cannot even scratch the surface of.

The landscapers of the famous Suzhou gardens have a saying: “如在画图中”. It literally means, “as in paint” or “like in paintings”. The architects and landscapers wanted the beauty of the Suzhou gardens to be so picturesque that their reality was questioned. So perfect that it takes a second glance to make sure the scene is real. But what the ancient garden builders did not account for was 外国人。

However, I for one like to believe that there is a beauty even in seeming imperfection. The intensity of the program gives me so many opportunities for error. In fact, my constant state is error. I have allowed myself to accept that it will be a long time, if ever, before my Chinese will actually sound authentic. I stick out like a white girl in China when I am walking to and from studying, and I am often the cause of slight disturbance to an otherwise authentic Chinese scene.

But, this is also a new picture of China. We, as CLS students, interested in a different culture and a foreign way of life, we are painting a new picture that includes both Chinese and Americans, 中国人和美国人, learning from each other and benefiting from the cross-cultural sharing of ideas. And I must say, the future looks very promising.

The Stages of the Foreign Traveler, by Hannah Garland



When one goes abroad, there are always adjustment stages that must be faced.

The first, and most enjoyable stage, is the stage in which all seems new and exciting. Right when arriving in the new country, one is in a stage of constant bliss. Everything in the culture seems perfect, the food is great, the people are friendly, and life seems perfect.

After this stage, one moves into the dreaded stage of struggling with the culture. At this stage, the small things that never bothered you before are magnified and seem to constantly occur. Small things that were never noticed now seem to occur daily and “mess up” your life. Food that is unavailable is craved, home is missed, and an overall miserable feeling is experienced.

Finally, after a while, the small, bothersome things seem to diminish and the big cultural problems that used to haunt you seem to fade. It is at this time that one learns to appreciate the culture in which she is living, acknowledge the good and the bad, and live in the once foreign culture.

These past few days I have been wrestling with myself through the second phase of this transition. This past weekend, the program I am a part of traveled to a famous mountain in Shandong, China. After getting to the top, a deluge rushed over the mountain, forcing my group to have to walk back down the 7,000 slippery, rock steps to the bottom of the mountain. When arriving back at the hotel, we did not have time to shower, but were, instead, put on a bus for five more hours. We were freezing, hungry, sore, and tired. In addition to the colds we all received from this trip, I believe this trip made most of us involved in the program come to a breaking point.

After not finding the bus I needed yesterday, I was forced to take a taxi, which was then followed by me crying to the taxi driver about the difficulties I have faced this summer, especially over the weekend. As a note, this is not a culturally appropriate action in China, but, hallelujah, the taxi driver was a sweet man who assured me that my Chinese would improve and I had nothing to worry about.

Sitting in the hotel last night, I thought about the difficulties and joys I have faced here. I have had fun times, faced challenges, made close friends, and seen cultural brokenness. One of the most difficult things one will ever face is knowing how to take another culture in, balance the good and bad within this culture, and decide how to react to all this information. Right now, I have seen some good, a lot of brokenness, and am trying to learn how to act accordingly.

As of now, I do not have the answers, but I know that I am here for a reason. Just as the subtitle of my blog states: 塞翁失马。(For the background story, read one of my first blogs). In the end, though the old man in this story thought the circumstance he was in was awful, it ended up bringing him blessings. At this point, I do not see the light at the end of the tunnel, but must trust that it is there. The flowers always bloom after winter. Oh how I look forward to the spring!